Twickenham – one of a number of villages that form the Royal Borough of Richmond, Twickenham is a delightful place to spend a day. If you have not yet been there, then here are 10 reasons why you should visit.
CHURCH STREET – The principal way through Twickenham, Church Street took its name from St Mary’s Church which was, and remains, its focal point on the bend at the top of Church Lane. For those who chose to travel by land it was the principal way through Twickenham for travellers between Richmond and the West. This traffic increased when Richmond Bridge was built in 1777 and in 1899 York Street was opened, so easing vehicle traffic along Church Street and reducing its importance.
When the monarch passed through Twickenham, going to Hampton Court, Church Street (if not the river) might have offered passage and the bells of St Mary’s Church rung, or the parish fined if they did not sound…
Perhaps the most remarkable event to have taken place in Church Street was the paving of the street early in 1716 with stone taken from the churchyard. This stone was almost certainly masonry rubble from the collapsed nave for which no other use had been found while rebuilding the church in 1714.
Today Church Street is home to a wonderful array of little shops and eateries.
SWEETIE PIES BOUTIQUE BAKERY – (my favourite) – pots of tea served on fine china with china tea-cups making us feel very posh, the interior of the shop is tiny and cosy. Boasting the best scones in town and a delightful range of themed cupcakes with seasonal delights for easter, mothers day, halloween and christmas amongst others. The proprietor’s are a delightful couple who make you feel welcomed as if you are old friends dropping by.
THE FOX PUB – probably the oldest pub in Twickenham, steeped in local history and first mentioned in the Sion Manor Court Books dated October 1700, by it’s previous name The Bell. It changed it’s name to The Fox around 1749. At one time time there were at least 4 other pubs in Church street none of which remain, besides The Eel Pie Pub est 1777.
YORK HOUSE – This Grade II listed house is scheduled as an ancient monument, dating back to the 17th Century.Construction on York House began in 1633. Initially occupied by Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester in 1656 and later by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, it is now the figurehead building of the headquarters for the London Borough of Richmond on Thames.
YORK HOUSE STATUES – The greatest surprise a visitor can have is to come unexpectedly upon the statues of winged horses and naked female figures; the Oceanides, a cluster of naked nymphs, either sitting on rocks or attemptimg to climb them, all gazing up at the beautiful venus that rides standing up and naked on the backs of two rearing, winged sea-horses which adorn a cascade and pool in the riverside portion of the gardens. Imported from Italy by a fraudulent financier who took his own life on conviction in 1904, they were acquired by the last private owner of York House, an Indian grandee called Sir Ratan Tata. There is quite a story behind these beautiful creatures and they were very nearly destroyed at one stage of their lives; thankfully for us….they were not!
MARBLE HILL HOUSE – Both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift spent many happy hours at Marble Hill as Henrietta Howard’s guests. Marble Hill House was widely known through engravings; its compact plan and tightly controlled elevations, after the interval of a generation, furnished a standard model for the English villas built throughout the Thames valley and further afield, as well as a model for plantation houses in the American colonies, where such a house was a “mansion”. The Great Room has five architectural capricci by Giovanni Paolo Pannini and lavishly gilded decoration. The Marble Hill house also hosts a collection of early Georgian furniture and paintings as well as the Lazenby Bequest Chinoiserie collection.
MARBLE HILL PARK – is an English Heritage site that surrounds Marble Hill House, a Palladian villa, set in 66 acres of parklend that was originally built in 1724-1729 for Henrietta Howard, the mistress of King George II.
EEL PIE ISLAND – is connected to the Twickenham embankment by a narrow footbridge, the first of which was erected in 1957. Before this, access was by means of a hand-operated ferry that was hauled across using a chain on the riverbed. Although the island is a private dwelling, if you slip across the footbridge for a quick walk-about and stick to the pathways, it’s worth a few minutes of exploration.
THAMES WALK TO RICHMOND – talk a meander along the Thames Path alongside the Thames to the historical town of Richmond. Along the way you will see canoeists, picnicers, rowers and the ferry that plies it’s trade between Hampton and Richmond.
There are a large number of fine houses in the area, many of them Victorian.
10 Famous people associated with Twickenham:
Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 Poet, satirist, letter writer, designer of gardens and grotto maker.
Charles Dickens 1812 – 1870 Visitor to Twickenham in 1838.
Henry Fielding – 1707-1754 Novelist & lawyer
J M W Turner – 1775 – 1851 Painter and poet
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – 1716 – 1783 Landscape Gardener
Nóel Coward – 1899 – 1973 Dramatist, actor and cabaret artist
Sir Christopher Wren – 1632 – 1723 Architect and Scientist
Sir Francis Bacon – 1561 – 1625 Statesman, essayist, philosopher and scientific theorist
Thomas Twining III – 1806 – 1895 Noted scientific educationist and polymath
Elizabeth Twining 1805 – 1889 Philanthropist, painter and writer. Leaves Dial House, Twickenham to the parish.
TWICKENHAM MUSEUM – a short walk from the river, this delightful old house is reputed to have been built in about 1720. It has enjoyed a long association with the river and with watermen and ferrymen. Although it can’t be said with certainty who all the occupiers have been, the house was occupied by the Hammerton family from 1896 until about 1952. This family, of watermen, ferrymen and boat builders are first recorded in Twickenham in 1610. The Twickenham Museum opened in 2001 at 25 The Embankment following restoration of the house. A tiny museum in comparison to London’s more well know museums, it is most certainly worth the time spent. With an impressive collection of artefacts that dates back to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods right through to WW2 and current times.
There is much else beside these 10 place to see in Twickenham; Orleans House, The Swan Pub, Sion Road and Twickenham Green. King Street – a busy main road on the route from Richmond and onwards to Teddington is home to a number of high street shops and stores, charity shops, eateries, coffee houses and pubs.
A day in Twickenham is a day well spent. Meander over some time!
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